The Mailed Fist (Part 2 of 2)

Posted by on Jun 13, 2011 in Blog | 0 comments

The Mailed Fist (Part 2 of 2)

Written by Spartan Franco | Tags: ,

Continued.

Section by section, the Prussian light tanks – only three-quarters of their number now remained – pulled back towards the Kaiser Friedrich, kicking up gouts of earth as they went.

Behind them came a solid line of Britannian medium tanks, huge lozenge-shaped monsters with overall tracks churning the earth. Compared to the retreating Walzes, the giants were slow and lumbering, but their heavy prow and sponson cannons picked off their smaller foes with impunity, bursting the fragile Prussian scouts apart like tin cans.

For those that survived the pounding, there was no reprieve. From hatches atop the Britannian juggernauts, tiny armoured figures swarmed into the sky, riding on streams of greenish-white flame. Rocket-troopers, they moved in great powered leaps, swarming the injured machines like hunting dogs running down bears.

A dozen of them bore down on a lagging Walze tank. The metal beast, its running gear heavily damaged, could not turn fast enough to bring its main armament to bear on the nimble rocketeers. Its commander yelled defiance from the cupola and swept his chattering Maxim gun left and right, spraying hot lead at his assailants. The raking fire at such close range could not fail to strike home. Four troopers were punched off their feet by the stream of lead, one of them becoming a miniature fireball as his rocket pack exploded.

His comrades were unperturbed. Expertly manoeuvring, they danced away from the machine gun’s spitting fury, raising bulbous, funnel-tipped weapons as they went. With a hiss and a roar, pilot lights flared and great sheets of flame erupted from their projectors, engulfing the doomed scout tank. Its commander died where he stood; charred to a husk a split-second before his machine gun blew up and rent his remains to flaming tatters. An instant later, his entire crew followed him to the grave as the Walze’s main magazines cooked off. The scout tank exploded with a deafening roar, showering the troopers with debris.

The surviving racketeers yelled cries of victory at their kill, but scant seconds later they too joined the ranks of the fallen. A second Walze had turned its starboard flank toward them – a flank replete with ominously crackling bronzed domes. A low background humming suddenly grew to a terrifying howl.

Crack-boom! Ozone soured the air as the Tesla coil discharged. The Britannians were momentarily wreathed in blue-white brilliance. They howled and jerked spasmodically as the lightning earthed itself hungrily on their suddenly useless armour. Their flamethrower tanks burst apart, adding to the horror. In a second it was over. All three collapsed into a smoking heap of roasted flesh and warped, heat-distorted metal.

But they were hardly alone. More and more rocketeers thundered out of the fog and bore down upon the Prussian forces, engulfing and slaughtering the survivors of the mined medium tank as if they were no more than insects. Two more Walzes met a fiery end under their flamethrowers. Beyond them, the bulky A6Vs struggled to reposition themselves as shells from their Britannian opponents dropped among their lines, bursting against their flanks

A curtain of huge explosions suddenly ripped through the enemy force as the Prussian Zeppelin crews came to the aid of their land-bound brethren. Great geysers of earth erupted, bursting apart two Britannian tanks and forcing the others to lumber backwards, away from the killing zone. Engines howling, spandaus stuttering, a circus of Taube fighters joined in the attack, swooping down like raptors to maul the enemy infantry. They bought the lumbering A6Vs enough time to form up in good order. When the shocked Britannians resumed their attack it was too late.

With a shattering tumult that sounded like a sudden thunderstorm, the Prussian medium tanks discharged their Tesla banks in unison. Immense lightning arcs flayed dozens of the unfortunate rocket soldiers. The surviving Walzes joined in, now able to bring their fixed main guns to bear. It was too much for the enemy; a series of bugle notes rang out and the survivors promptly turned tail and powered away, swiftly moving beyond the Teslas’ deadly reach. The Britannian tanks spewed smoke from their hull launchers and cannons, blanketing the whole area in thick orange fumes and preventing accurate return fire.

The Prussians didn’t pursue them, for it was clearly no rout. The enemy was by no means finished with them yet.

Slazenger and Hruska had watched the carnage unfold from the Kaiser Friedrich’s bridge. The Kapitan had deliberately held back the landship’s massive firepower; the enemy had been far too intermingled with his own forces to risk it.

Nonetheless, Slazenger took in the view with a heavy heart. “Casualty reports?”

“We’ve lost ten scouts. Another four badly damaged,” answered Kohl solemnly. “One total loss on our mediums. Minor damage to two others.”

Slazenger grimaced. Almost half the scout group was gone – hopefully, survivors among the crews would’ve gone to ground. “Enemy losses?”

“Bruning reports its scout planes count half a dozen enemy wrecks. Difficult to say because of the smoke. They’re meeting resistance from Englisch fighters up there. “ Hruska raised his face mask and rubbed his eyes. “We were lucky. Looks like their air cover missed a beat.”

“Alright, we seem to have bought some time,” said Slazenger. “Signal medium Schwadron Zwei. I want sweeper crews out and probing for mines…”

Hruska grabbed Slazenger’s arm. “Herr Kapitan! Looks like round two!”

Slazenger turned to the viewport and put up his glasses, but realised in an instant that he didn’t need them. The smoke cloud was dissipating and more Britannian mediums – a score at least – were rumbling toward the trapped Prussian forces. Already, their guns were belching smoke and flame. Fountains of earth erupted once more among the Prussian mediums.

“Belay that order!” Slazenger cried. “Give me the bombards. Box barrage two hundred yards fo’ard of our frontline! Hruska! Get onto guns. Now we’ve something to aim at!”

“Damn Brits were waiting for our air support to get drawn off. They aren’t affected by their own mines,” said the Czech officer as he went to the voicepipes. “It’ll take an age for the Pflichts to come around.”

“Then it’s time for what we know best, Stepan… Kesselschlact. A cauldron battle.”

The enemy mediums came on in wedge formations, their guns discharging in huge salvoes – the Britannians had happily adapted their naval warfare customs to land combat. The concentrated volleys punched ragged holes in the flank of an A6V, shattering its portside side Tesla banks and mangling the aft turret. Just outside Tesla range, the huge engines halted.

The Prussian mediums answered fire with fire. Their turret guns belched and roared. A cluster of shells straddled the first enemy echelon, smashing two enemy engines in unison. Their hulls burst apart amid showers of flame and metal fragments, the wrecked hulks skidding to a halt. The Britannians began to back away once more, trying to compel the Prussians to break up their defensive laager.

They reckoned without the Kaiser Friedrich.

The Prussian landship joined the fray for the first time. With a massive roar that shook the earth, the Friedrich’s fore primary gun turrets fired in unison, and four Britannians exploded like fireworks. The landship’s massive ordnance was designed to take on others of its kind. Against it, mere tanks were so much fodder.

But they were hardly helpless. The survivors reversed, now at considerable speed. They swivelled their guns towards the A6Vs and belched another salvo, but not at the Prussian tanks. They fired into a far more lethal target.

The ground itself.

A monstrous detonation tore apart the earth beneath the stranded A6Vs as the Britannian shells triggered their own mines. The damaged A6V erupted in a shower of metal and flying bodies as its ruptured Tesla coils exploded and set off its munitions. Three other mediums, rocked like cabinets in an earthquake, toppled over onto their sides, one erupting into a huge fireball.

Even the mighty landship shook and the earth bucked beneath its tracks; an entire Walze scout tank pinwheeled through air and smashed into its starboard flank athwart the bridge.

With the Prussian frontline temporarily a shambles, the Britannian mediums halted about to rake their opponents with fire again, but ran into their own problems once more as the first shells from the distant Prussian bombards began dropping around them.

The Friedrich’s bridge was a shambles. The windows had shattered with the impact of the wrecked Walze and a dozen men were injured, among them Hruska himself, his face torn by a shard of broken glass. Nonetheless, the tough Czech quickly regained his feet. “Ach! Let them have it Kapitan! Just say the word!”

Slazenger, shaken but otherwise remarkably unscathed, shook his head. “No Jan, we’ve got bigger fish to fry now. Take a look.” He pointed out of the shattered viewport.

Hruska followed his gaze, his eyes widening at the sight. Amid the smoke, flames and shrapnel, something gigantic was lumbering out of the fog. Dozens of muzzle flashes flickered across its bulk, and the Friedrich shook again as shells burst against its massive hull. The enemy giant came on, heedless of the shell bursts that surrounded it, and the swarms of Prussian aeroplanes that harried it like gnats. Upon its back loomed a huge dome, reminiscent of a church.
Hruska gulped. “Orders, Kapitan?”

Slazenger’s voice was loud and steady even through the chaos of the bridge. “Now we have a worthy enemy. Get me firing solutions and charge up the Grosse Tesla. That one is ours!

Seconds later, the Friedrich’s guns roared again, shells smashing into the monstrous bulk of its Britannian foe. With a bass humming that turned swiftly into a might shriek, its massive fore Tesla cycled up to fire, and battle was joined in earnest on the bleak north Dutch coast…